Virginia Gov. Mark Warner signed legislation into law over the
weekend that will enable state officials to reach full fist into
the pockets of truckdrivers using Interstate 81 while letting
other motorists pass by unscathed.
Warner signed HB1373 allowing tolls on trucks using I-81 to help
pay for widening plans. The bill amends Virginia's Public-Private
Transportation Act to permit tolls on trucks using the 325-mile
stretch of road from Winchester to Bristol. Cars would travel
the remaining toll-free lanes.
The provision is essential to a private consortium's plan
to widen the state's portion of I-81 to eight lanes and reserve
four lanes for commercial trucks. The consortium's financing
plan relies heavily on tolls.
Truckdriver and OOIDA board member John Taylor of Cross Junction,
VA, says "We need the additional lanes on I-81, as well as
other highways, but it's certainly unfair to ask the trucks
to pay for it all. It's benefitting the people in the automobiles
as it is the trucker. We're not in a big profit margin business
to start with. Many truckers and companies are going broke. It's
not like we're making a tremendous amount of money. This
obviously would be an extra burden on the industry.
"It's immaterial to the trucker how we pay for the
roads as long as it's fair," says Taylor. "Are
they going to relieve us from ton-mile or fuel taxes on that road?
Are we going to be paying the same amount of taxes or more? That's
the question I want answered."
Taylor says he also is concerned about the precedent decisions
like this creates. "Private toll roads appear to be the route
the nation is taking," he says. "States are looking
to put future road building in the hands of private contractors
and toll road systems. The trucking industry must gear itself
The Commonwealth Transportation Board and the Federal Highway
Administration must approve the widening plan and decide whether
to impose tolls.
-- Keith Goble